At the weekend we ate pork shoulder with fennel seeds, which had been cooking all day in our new slow cooker. It was great (thanks to Chris). I had forgotten just how good this combination of meat and spice can be.
The joint is smeared all over with three tablespoons of Dijon mustard. Two tablespoons of fennel seeds are crushed in a pestle and mortar with a teaspoon of sea or rock salt, and rubbed into the mustard on the meat. Around 150ml of dry cider is added around the meat. Cover and cook slowly for 8 to 9 hours. Cook the crackling separately in a hot oven, along with the roast potatoes.
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seeds are added to a wide range of roasted pork dishes, pork stews and casseroles, on grilled pork chops, and are a key ingredient in Italian pork sausages.
The distinctive flavour and aroma of crushed fennel seeds is due to their dominant volatile component anethole (which is the same chemical that flavours anise seeds and star anise). Harold McGee notes that most fennel seed sold commercially is from sweet fennel varieties. These have a sweet flavour (without the bitterness of wild fennel and non-sweet varieties), supplemented by citrus, fresh and pine notes.
Harold McGee, 2004. McGee on Food and Cooking, Hodder & Stoughton, page 415.